October 6, 2015 at 3:58 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
U.S., Pacific Rim countries agree to controversial trade deal

Malaysia, Najib Razak, gay news, Washington Blade

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in August said his country would not defend LGBT rights. Advocates in his country and elsewhere have criticized the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership that Malaysia and 11 other Pacific Rim countries would join. (Photo by the World Economic Forum; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries on Monday reached a deal on a controversial trade agreement that LGBT rights advocates have sharply criticized.

The White House in a statement said the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership would eliminate more than 18,000 tariffs that countries place on American exports.

The Obama administration notes TPP contains new labor and environmental standards, prioritizes “transparency and anticorruption” efforts and protects the intellectual property of multinational corporations. TPP supporters also maintain the trade agreement contains “enforceable” human rights standards.

“This historic agreement links together countries that represent nearly 40 percent of global GDP,” said Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement after negotiators who had gathered in Atlanta over the past weekend reached the agreement. “The TPP will spur economic growth and prosperity, enhance competitiveness and bring jobs to American shores.”

“It will provide new and meaningful access for American companies, large and small,” he added. “And by setting high standards on labor, the environment, intellectual property and a free and open market, this agreement will level the playing field for American businesses and workers.”

Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam would join TPP if they ratify it.

Homosexuality remains criminalized in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.

Brunei last year began to implement a new legal code based on Sharia law that punishes those convicted of homosexuality by stoning them to death. Malaysia’s highest court in February upheld former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction under the country’s anti-sodomy law.

Kerry in August raised Anwar’s case with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during his visit to the country’s capital of Kuala Lumpur. Najib a few weeks later said his government will not defend LGBT rights and other issues that are not within the “context of Islam.”

Pride at Work Executive Director Jerame Davis on Monday referenced Najib’s aforementioned comments in his statement that criticized the TPP agreement.

“The inclusion of Brunei and Malaysia in the TPP greatly undermines the administration’s commitment to LGBT equality worldwide,” said Davis.

Davis said TPP will also increase the cost of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV and make them less available in Vietnam and other countries that become part of the trade agreement. He is also among those who have criticized the “secret, behind closed doors” negotiations through which the trade agreement was negotiated.

The Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality in June 2014 joined Pride at Work in urging the White House to “require Brunei to address its human rights violations in advance of further” TPP negotiations. U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) earlier this year in a letter to President Obama raised similar concerns about the inclusion of Brunei and Malaysia” in the trade agreement.

Alberto Roa, a spokesperson for the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, in a statement to the Washington Blade on Tuesday questioned whether TPP would reduce “scandalous” socio-economic inequalities in the South American country that he described as the highest in the world.

“We can only hope that the TPP will have a positive impact on the quality of life of the most vulnerable sectors of our country,” said Roa. “Whether that occurs or not, we will only know when the TPP comes into effect after our Congress ratifies it.”

Thilaga Sulathireh, founder of Justice for Sisters, a Malaysian advocacy group, has echoed Roa’s concerns, amid others, in her overall criticism of TPP.

“We do not feel that the TPP is an equal economic partnership,” Sulathireh told the Blade in February.

The Associated Press on Monday reported Obama must wait 90 days to sign TPP.

A vote on whether to ratify the trade agreement is unlikely to take place in Congress until sometime in 2016.

Lawmakers will only be able to vote on the proposed trade deal without amending it.

Luis Ángel Tenorio Cruz, National Regeneration Movement, Mexico City, Guerrero, gay news, Washington Blade

Luis Ángel Tenorio Cruz of the National Regeneration Movement takes part in a protest in Mexico City’s main square on Oct. 26, 2014. Mexico is among the countries that would join the U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

1 Comment
  • The TPPA is not a fiasco, for the Chinese owner businesses maybe, moreover it has not been signed and Malaysia has just agreed onto looking into it first, and Mr. Mustapa has been given the responsibility for safeguarding the interest of Malaysians. If there is no loophole only then the further actions will be taken. Till now TPPA seems like a good strategy towards Malaysian economy.

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